Here we go again then...
Michelin are to reveal who has made it into the hallowed pages of their 2018 Michelin Guide UK during a live event at The Brewery, near London's Barbican, on Monday 2 October. Once again, Manchester’s hospitality industry and media will be keenly tuning in online, whilst also pretending that they’re not actually that bothered.
But does Michelin recognition matter in an era of so many other guides, awards and top 100 lists? Well, it does actually, as the gain or loss of a star can have a dramatic effect on business. As the oldest hotel and restaurant reference guide, Michelin is generally regarded around the world as the pinnacle of exemplary quality for food, atmosphere and service.
However, traditionally, Michelin and Manchester don’t get on all that well. The city's first and only Michelin star was awarded to The French at the Midland Hotel in 1974, based on Chef Gilbert Lefevre’s entirely French menu. This was the year the first UK guide was published, so the more cynical could argue that even that was a fluke.
Anyway, 44 years later, despite its best efforts, Manchester remains without one of these internationally-renowned culinary accolades to its name. Will it happen this year? We're doubtful. But if it does, it's likely going to be one of this lot...
Where The Light Gets In - Stockport
Why: Chef patron Samuel Buckley began cooking under Gary Rhodes before moving to Juniper, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Altrincham, working for Paul Kitching and then on to Simon Rogan’s tutelage at L’Enclume. Earlier this year, he opened his own restaurant in a hard to find attic space in Stockport.
They are only open for dinner between Wednesday and Saturday and the menu is so uncompromising, there is no actual menu; just a multi-course ever-evolving tasting menu of seven or so dishes at £75 (recently increased from £65). Dishes are revealed to the diner only when they’re served and are created from seasonal (and often foraged) ingredients. There is also no physical wine list and wines are unavailable by the glass, only in the form of an accompanying no-choice matching wine flight or non-alcoholic drink journey for an additional £45.
However, in the twelve months since it opened, Where The Light Gets In has been nominated for various awards, has been written about in various hospitality publications and has received rave reviews by prominent restaurant bloggers and national food critics. It was even given a rare 10/10 by Guardian and new Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin who described her meal as “the most exciting food I’ve had in years.”
Typical dish: Bull’s testicle with quince puree
Confidential score: 17.5/20 - read our review here
Where the Light Gets In, 7 Rostron Brow, Stockport Tel: 0161 477 5744
Adam Reid at The French, Midland Hotel - City Centre
Why: We’ll have to go back to March 2013 when The Midland Hotel began their five year investment plan, starting with improvements to the grade II listed dining room, The French, which was looking a little old fashioned.
To help reinvigorate the menu, they got none other than Simon Rogan in to sprinkle it with the kind of special stardust which helped him gain two Michelin stars and five AA Rosettes at L’Enclume, his restaurant in the Lake District.
However, after three years of drawing a blank (as far as Michelin goes anyway) in Manchester, Rogan left in October 2016 ‘to concentrate on his other venues’. Earlier this year, The French was given another lick of paint, a sound system and was renamed ‘Adam Reid at The French’ in honour of their new head chef (who had worked under Simon Rogan for years.) Adam has retained the high standard of cooking and even triumphed in the North West heats of Great British Menu.
Typical dish: Lancashire tasty and onion tart, lovage and eel + the 'Golden Empire'
Confidential score: 19/20 - read our review here
Adam Reid at The French, The Midland Hotel, Peter St, M60 2DS Tel: 0161 235 4780
Rabbit In The Moon – City Centre
Why: ‘Designed and directed by The Man Behind The Curtain’, aka Michael O’Hare, the chef behind the edgy Michelin starred restaurant in Leeds. The urban space-age Rabbit is located on the top two floors of Urbis which houses the National Football Museum and features a blaring hip-hop soundtrack, a black carpet and graffiti-sprayed walls.
They serve ‘a modern interpretation of a Japanese Kaiseki menu’ in the form of a multi course tasting menu of at least fifteen dishes for £65 (or £75 on Fridays and Saturdays) and a lunch menu for £45. Vegetarians and people with religious dietary requirements can get stuffed apparently - or not, according to their website.
Head chef Luke Cockerill - who recently picked up a nomination for 'Chef of the Year' at the Manchester Food & Drink Awards - was recently and unexpectedly removed from his position at the Rabbit among whispers of discontent. Could this affect their chances?
Typical dishes: Char Siu hotdog
Confidential score: 16/20 - read our review here
Rabbit In The Moon, Corporation Street, M4 3BG Tel: 0161 804 8560
Manchester House – City Centre
Why: Living Ventures splashed out £3m opening this fine dining restaurant, even pitting it against Simon Rogan at The French for the BBC's Restaurant Wars - a television programme angled around both restaurants making Michelin their mission.
Until last month, the head chef was Aiden Byrne who, at 22, was the youngest chef to gain a Michelin star at Adlards in Norwich and in 2002 earned another in The Commons Restaurant, Dublin. After four years as head chef, Aiden Byrne has recently moved into a wider consultancy role and the Manchester House head chef position has been awarded to his long time senior sous, Nathanial Tofan.
They offer ten or fourteen course tasting menus or an a la carte. Confidential enjoyed the food during a recent visit but will the Michelin inspectors like it enough to include it in their guide?
Typical Dishes: Cured Goosnargh duck breast, watercress, turnip and truffle
Confidential score: 18.5/20 (though back in 2015) - read our review here
Manchester House, 18-22 Bridge Street, Spinningfields, M3 3BZ
Umezushi – City Centre
Why: This Japanese restaurant is another great dining venue in an unlikely location which has caught the eye of the national food critics. You’ll find this small twenty seater sushi cave – with some difficulty - beneath a railway arch close to Victoria Station, serving super fresh sashimi, expertly sliced as well as wagyu dishes and a very good wine list.
This is a Michelin outsider and when we asked him if he thought he might be in the running for a star this year, owner Terry Huang said he’d be ‘very, very surprised as it’s not something we’ve thought about.’ But we think it’s ace.
Typical dishes: Eel nigiri
Confidential score: 19.5/20 - read our review here
Umezushi, 4, Mirabel St, Manchester M3 1PJ
Following the official announcement on Monday 2 October, the guide will be published and available to buy from Thursday 5 October.